The Motion Picture Anthology
by Donald Melanson
08 , 2005
| Warner Bros. has packaged the first four Batman
movies together in a brand new box set but it is really two very
different series. The first two films, directed by Tim Burton,
drew inspiration from the darkest of the comics and graphic novels.
Joel Schumacher's two latter films, on the other hand, have more
in common with the campy 60s TV series, except they're less fun.
Burton's films have some problems of their own mainly
screenplay ones but they succeed in creating an inventive
and visually rich world, filled with characters that seem to belong
there. Batman Returns especially looks stunning, with a
snow covered Gotham City crafted from even more impressive sets
than the first film. Both films also benefit greatly from Michael
Keaton, who was a controversial choice at the time but proved
to be great for the role.
One thing I never understood is why Burton chose to shoot
both movies in the standard 1.85:1 widescreen format instead of
the wider scope aspect ratio. There's a Sergio Leone-style operatic
quality to the Batman mythology that I think would have
been greatly aided by the wider frame but maybe that' s
Unfortunately, the series went way downhill after Burton left
and Schumacher stepped in. Batman Forever isn't a complete
failure, and is moderately entertaining if you don't view it as
a continuation of the Burton films. Batman & Robin,
however, is just embarrassingly bad, and put an end to the series
for eight years until Christopher Nolan took it back to its dark
roots with Batman Begins.
Warner's snazzy looking box set is smartly priced at significantly
less than the cost of the four individual DVDs. Each film gets
the two-disc treatment, with director commentaries and loads of
supplemental material, including extensive documentaries and various
other short features (like the scrapped Robin storyboard sequence
from the first movie). All four films also have great anamorphic
transfers and both Dolby 5.1 and DTS surround sound.
Completists will probably gravitate towards the box set given
its fairly low price, but for the rest of us, I'd recommend making
your own box set of Batman,
Returns and Batman
Begins you could also throw in the great animated
series for good measure.
Melanson is the editor-in-chief of Mindjack and a freelance
writer for hire.
In addition to Mindjack, his work has appeared in The
Globe & Mail, Engadget,
and MovieMaker Magazine.